A lot of things seemed like they started changing rapidly in the college football universe during the 2021 season. College football fans started to get drip-fed stories and developments about NIL, and there was a whole lot of nail-biting about conference structure. Specifically, the ground beneath the Big 12 turning to quicksand after the departure of Texas and Oklahoma for the SEC turned quite a few heads. On the Fizz, we spoke at the time about which of the conference’s refugee programs the ACC might want to take on.
The Atlantic Coast has yet to add any teams fleeing the Big 12, but instead is now mulling a change to its own football schedule that may mean differently weighted slates for its participants. Within the past few days, ESPN has reported that the ACC has considered scrapping divisions entirely beginning in 2023 in a move intended to allow the conference’s teams to play each other more frequently. Instead, ACC teams would adopt a “3-5-5” approach with three permanent opponents before rotating through the rest over a two-year period. Over the course of four years, SU would play every other team in the conference at least once.
For a team like the Orange, this should be welcomed. SU is hands down the worst team in the ACC Atlantic, but it’s not because they’re truly awful. It’s because the other teams – Clemson, BC, Florida State, Louisville, NC State, and Wake Forest – are either objectively good or routinely bludgeon Syracuse whenever they play them. A chance to cycle through some of the Coastal division’s doormats – namely Duke and Georgia Tech – would supply Syracuse with more winnable games than it currently has.
The numbers back up Syracuse’s struggles against ACC Atlantic foes since the Orange moved into the conference prior to the 2013 season. SU is a combined 2-15 against Clemson and FSU during that span (including crushing losses to both in 2021) and routinely gets incinerated by Louisville: since 2014, the Orange are 1-7 against the Cardinals with all seven losses coming by at least 22 points.
By scrapping divisions, ‘Cuse could be thrown a life preserver away from some of its Atlantic division tormentors and instead start building up its regional rivalries again. Former regular Big East foes like Pittsburgh, Miami, and Virginia Tech would serve as changeups in the conference slate. Potential permanent space to schedule nearby teams like Rutgers, UConn, or Temple for more meaningful non-conference games could also be a side effect of the change.
Per ESPN, the division dissolution is to be voted on by the Division I council within the next month, and it’s expected to pass. It’ll be a new wrinkle for SU as it heads into its ‘23 season, potentially with a new head coach, identity, and new ideas for its potential schedule.